What Possessed The CBC This Morning?

“You’re never going to guess what the big story was on the CBC this morning,” my wife says to me.

“Missile failure in North Korea?”

“No…. It’s some service we don’t have in Saskatchewan and, horror of horrors, you have to go to Calgary to get.”

“Brain surgeons?”

“Nope.”

“Well, some health thing then.”

“No… Oh wait. I guess it is,” she says. Then the big reveal: “Exorcism!”

“What?”

“It’s true. There are no exorcists in Saskatchewan and people are all in a huff about it.”

And sure enough. There it is, top story on the CBC Sask website. “Exorcism expertise sought after Saskatoon ‘possession.’

Clearly, CBC failed to eat its research Wheaties this morning because if they had they’d know there is a shit ton of people in this province who can sort out the possession problem.

Me, for instance.

No. Seriously. I’m totally “qualified” to deal with demonic possession. Oh sure, my “credentials” (an MA in English Lit) are always accompanied by ironic quotey marks, but I reckon for an ailment that is always reported in the media along with liberal use of ironic quotey marks, I can be your Max Von Sydow just as easily as the next guy.

And what would I do in my official capacity of Saskatchewan Exorcist Laureate? Why, the obvious thing. Send these poor “demonically-possessed” individuals to see someone I like to call “a doctor.” Preferably, someone with a specialization in psychiatry and a PhD in Coping with Philosophical Malarkey in a More a Sympathetic Way than I Can.

Oh, I know, the usual defense of exorcism runs along the lines of, “But if the person truly believes they’re possessed by a demon, then maybe the only way to help them is through religious ritual.”

Nonsense. You don’t cope with an illness by humouring the afflicted person. You find out what’s wrong with them — for reals — and try to fix that. For instance, there was this time a couple years ago where I was convinced I was having a heart attack so I went in to the doctor and he ran a battery of tests and gave me a clean bill of health.

“What have you been doing the last couple days,” he asks me.

“Nothing. Um. Trimming trees.”

Turns out, that was my problem. That I’d been using muscles that I probably hadn’t since high school and they got really freaking sore. And I’m really glad the doctor checked that instead of just cutting my chest open because he’d taken my word for it when I said, “Doc, my chest kind of hurts. Clearly, I’m having a heart attack!”

The upshot of all this is, CBC, what the hell? In your online story (can’t speak to the Morning Edition story), you don’t even speak to one doctor or scientist who can tell you, demonic possession: doesn’t exist. That seems a little shoddy, don’t you think?

Of course, if you had, then you wouldn’t have got to run the usual, “Oh, poor hard done by Saskatchewan” story you love so much.

Author: Paul Dechene

Paul Dechene is 5'10'' tall and he was born in a place. He's not there now. He's sitting in front of his computer writing his bio for this blog. He has a song stuck in his head. It's "Girl From Ipanema", thanks for asking. You can follow Paul on Twitter at @pauldechene and get live updates during city council meetings and other city events at @PDcityhall.

21 thoughts on “What Possessed The CBC This Morning?”

  1. Plus it was a Saskatoon demonic possession. I don’t think that’s really relevant to Regina listeners.

  2. But the woman called for the priest instead of anyone else (her prerogative, if misguided), who tried to help and then called the police. Pretty reasonable response on his part.

    And the CBC then follows up by examining the issue of exorcisms from the church’s POV, makes sense as I imagine this opportunity doesn’t arise on a regular basis. They look foolish for also not consulting a medical opinion (props to the Bishop for questioning whether it was possession or simply a mental breakdown/psychological condition). But this a typical CBC story, presenting one side without going into any depth on the issue. Not surprising at all, go to NYTimes or other sources with the intent (and means) for investigative reports.

  3. I am more than sympathetic to the CBC’s plight with respect to ongoing budget cuts, but its internal decision-making process does it no favours. Case in point: running stories such as this one as leads. It is becoming increasingly frustrating to support the CBC, as it is more the idea of what it could be, rather than the current reality, I find worthy. “Dispatches” is yanked, but “Type A” remains put? Pfft.

  4. There “is a shit ton…”, not “are”.
    “quotey” Really? An MA in English, and you can’t spell “quotation”??
    Recheck the uses of the colon.

    As an MA in anthropology, I can tell you that mental illness is ascribed to demonic possession in many cultures. If your culture defines mental breakdown in such terms, and you have a breakdown, your symptoms will perfectly align with the expected behaviour. Immigrant groups, recent and not so recent, will bring their beliefs with them, so episodes like the one in Saskatoon will happen; we just have to remember to be culturally sensitive when we help them get assistance for the problem. I’d hope that, as Exorcist Laureate, you’d show a tad more sensitivity than your remarks above would indicate.
    The instructors in the Catholic schools I attended took a common-sense view of demonic possession. They taught, first off, that the concept was used to explain mental and some physical illnesses in the days before science revealed the sources of the symptoms displayed. On the theological side, they also taught that possession could not happen without the deliberate consent of the victim; in other words, the involuntary possession described in “The Exorcist” couldn’t happen.
    In my student days, the folks with the most anxiety about evil spirits and their works were eastern Europeans.

  5. Just to clarify: the local CBC news report wouldn’t cover Korean missiles.

    @Anonymusses: Good one.

  6. LOL, anonymusses. Good one!
    I was going to say “And people wonder why CBC is facing cuts”, but someone else beat me to it.

  7. This’s not why CBC funding is being cut and yooooou know it, Barb! That said, The Globe And Mail ran this piece awhile back that speaks to that sentiment.

  8. Man, talk about ME not getting a joke…
    Talbot: I agree with you. The CBC had decades to become a truly national broadcaster; instead, it decided to be Toronto-centric and look down its nose at the regions.

  9. Barb: “is/are” problem fixed. “quotey” and the colon abuse I’m keeping in because I like ’em.

    As for your other comments… I feel only compassion for the ailing man in the story.

    But, I have zero sympathy for sloppy, exploitative journalism about mental illness. I take it very seriously. Actually, I think the term is, very fucking seriously.

    I also have no respect for clergy who talk about evil as though it is a force in the universe akin to momentum or magnetism. And less than zero for those who ascribe it some kind of autonomous agency. If you want to do that when you’re talking about society in broadly metaphorical or symbolic terms… okay, I guess, maybe, fine. But when you’re talking about someone with a serious mental illness, you put the mystical bullshit away.

    Thing is, when a reporter asks you if you think someone is possessed by a demon, there is actually a correct answer. “There is no such thing as demonic possession. This person needs medical help and a lot of love from family and friends.”

    You don’t say stuff that can be construed as an admission that in some cases exorcism is warranted because evil and the devil are real and can occasionally interfere with people. That only perpetuates medieval nonsense.

    Based on the quotes in this article, the priests made comments that I’d consider very questionable. But considering the way in which this piece was written, I don’t trust how their views were represented.

    So, maybe I’ll be willing to give the people quoted the benefit of the doubt. Because I’m charitable like that. But as for the author behind this story….

    grrrrrrrrrr

  10. Paul: perhaps you should have put your 7th paragraph at the beginning and saved yourself a rant. This seems like a lot of energy spent railing against something someone MIGHT have said. Life is too short, and its issues too demanding.

  11. So you’re implying I should abandon blogging and take to “the Twitter” then?

    That’s pretty harsh.

  12. Not at all; it’s just hard to determine who you’re angrier with: the priest, for (allegedly) saying that possession might be real, or the reporter, who might have misquoted the priest, or missed nuance, or missed the priest’s attempt to be tactful re: the woman who called for help. If you’re that uncertain about the reporter, then stick to that issue.

  13. Nah. I’d rather cast a really big net of angry so I’m sure to catch everyone deserving of my scorn.

  14. Perhaps the term exorcism has taken on a Hollywood flavor but the process of delivering one tormented by a devil was taught and practiced by Jesus Christ and He commissioned the Church to do like wise. Other terms are used in the Bible for deliverance such as purging, cleansing, setting the captive free, opening the door to the prison house, loosing the chains, loosing, breaking the cords and freeing from the vexation of the devil. This is the only method to break the captivity to addictions, anger, fear, rejection, depression, insanity, victimization especially to abuse and many other afflictions including disease. There is only one kingdom that doesn’t want this known as ignorance to this keeps the demonic in place; able to manifest himself through rogue personality characteristics and affliction.

    We have a ministry here in Calgary where this basic fundamental work of reconciliation and restoration is done without fanfare. A recent book of mine “Sanctiprize”, details this neglected and forgotten basic essential work of the church. If the church isn’t doing this the people have nowhere to go to be set free…nowhere!!! They have no place to go to be healed…nowhere!
    The church is in the habit of sub-contracting out its responsibility of personal care to psychologists and the like but all they can do is help manage a condition…they cannot heal and restore. All malady has a root and the Bible explains this. The church needs to understand the Biblical root and recognize the insanity, as in the case of this story, is just the symptom.

    The question needs to be asked…how is all the “progress” we’ve made in understanding and treating mental illness really working? The real zombies are created through medication. It is a tragedy what is happening to our people for no reason when the mystery of these vexations is readily solved by one who will take the time to study the Book of our Life…the Bible.

  15. agent w: No, I’d like us to say “There are many people”. Isn’t that shoret, easier, and to the point?

  16. shorter, darn it.
    Have you been to the Regina Symphony Booksale yet? It ends next Saturday, at the new improved location in the Golden Mile, across from Bach and Beyond.

  17. The CBC is always “possessed” by the federal gov’t with a general reliance on taxpayer funds. Stop using taxpayer funds and it will no longer be “possessed”. That’s a topic for another day of course.

    Now, returning to the exorcism discussions.
    Being a “former” catholic, I no longer believe in exorcisms. Truly documented exorcisms done by the Roman Catholic Church are very rare. I can understand for the followers it’s a piece of mind knowing there is a trained catholic priest if the need arises.

    Too many wild claims of exorcisms run rampant, yet go unchecked.

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